When I was 17 years old and about to start my senior year of high school in California, my mother returned to Central America with my brother. I did not want to leave. We had come to the United States with nothing. Our life was extremely difficult, and my brother and I did not have a stable home. But at my school I studied music and I dreamt of becoming a music teacher for special children.
I had no place to stay until my music teacher, Mr. Wesley Reed, said to me: "You can bunk with us for a year." That’s how I found myself spending my first Christmas without my family, at Mr. Reed's home, with his wife and two children.
That Christmas in particular was a trying one.
I was then a teenager striving to be as adultlike as possible. I was very worried because I knew that at some point I was going to be on my own again and I wasn’t very clear about where to go or what I’d do then. For the time being, I was in a house with people who were not my blood family, and yet, I felt embraced by their tenderness, and Christmas burst with love and glitter.
I had a job at Wendy's and my money was enough for only one gift: a sweater for Mr. Reed. They gave me clothes too, which was what I needed most.
But again I was stung by that overwhelming longing you feel when you are away from your family, when you have left your country, when memories bring back important moments. That night I went to the camper where I slept outside the house, and I began to reminisce about my maternal grandmother. I cried myself to sleep that Christmas.
Last year I paid a visit to Mr. Reed. We had kept in touch, and his youngest son had told me that his dad was very sick.
As I pulled up on the driveway, the same driveway where he used to park the camper I slept in, he was waiting for me outside, visibly moved. We went into the house and I realized that my teacher, who had always been so lively, wasn’t himself. He seemed a little out of it, distracted. So, I asked them to break out a guitar and I started to play James Taylor’s “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight,” which we all loved to sing together on the way to school. And he sang along with me. His wife said, "Wow! He hasn’t done this in a long time."
When we were done, Mr. Reed said: "I told you that you were going to be famous, that I had faith in you and in your talent.”
Mr. Reed passed away last year, but the best thing about this story is the realization that there are very kind people in this world. I did not expect my teacher to be the reason, the bridge, the motivation for me to stay in the United States, and yet he was. I will be forever thankful.
Singer and composer Luis Enrique, a winner of Grammy and Latin Grammy Awards, published his memoir, “Autobiography” (Harper Collins), in October.